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Chinese bid farewell to peacekeepers killed in Haiti quake


BEIJING, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) -- Chinese leaders and people Wednesday bade farewell to eight peacekeeping police officers who were killed in the 7.3-magnitude earthquake in Haiti last week.

Top leaders Hu Jintao, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang joined thousands of members of the public at the ceremony held at the Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in western Beijing.

People were standing in long lines outside the ceremony hall in the winter chill, waiting to pay tribute to the peacekeepers who were posthumously honored Tuesday by the government as "martyrs."

In the hall, hung above the photographs of the officers was a black banner reading "Deeply mourning Chinese peacekeeping police officers who lost their lives in the Haiti earthquake."

Their coffins were decorated with white chrysanthemums, a traditional Chinese funeral flower, and covered by China's red national flag, surrounded by wreaths offered by their colleagues, friends and the country's leaders.

All nine leaders, in dark suits with white flowers pinned in their lapels, stood in silent tribute and bowed three times toward the coffins.

Hu Jintao and other leaders shook hands with family members of the eight deceased, expressing deep sorrow and condolences.

Among the eight officers, four were in a team sent by the Ministry of Public Security to Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, for peacekeeping consultations, and the other were officers of China's peacekeeping force in Haiti.

They were talking with U.N. staff in the headquarters of the UN Stabilization Mission in Port-au-Prince when the quake occured at about 4:50 p.m. on Jan. 12 local time.

Their bodies arrived back in Beijing on Tuesday.

At www.sina.com.cn, a leading Chinese Internet portal, more than 1.2 million people have offered virtual wreaths in an on-line tribute.

"May the heroes on peace. We will remember in our hearts what you have done. You are forever alive in our hearts," said "Tingtingjiuhao" in a post on the website.

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